2008 has been a comeback year for Sheffield’s snd, with the release of “4, 5, 6” the first edition in six years with this project and a tour with Autechre. Mark Fell and Mat Steel talk about their latest creation, as well as about their origins and the perspective they have on their own work.
Chain D.L.K.: What can you say about “4, 5, 6”
Snd: Mark Fell (MF): About the last three 12 inches that were released this year, we conceived of these as three separate records that were intended to be released on different dates. For us, the 12″ format is a good format to work on – for some reason we feel most comfortable with it. And then, as we got to the editing stage, we made a decision to release them all in one go as a three pack 12″. We’re happy with the project, as it shows our path over recent years.
Chain D.L.K.: And as for you other projects, like Blir, what’s in the can?
Snd: MF: Right now we have no plans for any new Blir material, but this will probably change in the future, when we find some time to devote to this project again.
Chain D.L.K.: What are the main developments you would like to point out in your latest works, regarding aspects like composition or software innovation?
Snd: MF: Looking back to our first project on Mille Plateaux, “makesnd cassette”, it was a particular approach to how to deal with change in music – change in terms of how a piece develops over its duration, or how an album changes over its course.For us, at that time we were unhappy about timeline based approaches to structuring music. We found it hard to make the changes feel right… So we had none, or few. A track simply played and the sounds were changed slightly. “Tenderlove” (our third album) was a departure from this. Here, there were far more real time processes involved. We had spent two or maybe three years developing ways of changing music data in real time, so that we could transform patterns in a number of ways.At this stage, we were very much working with processes that were dynamically engaging – where you could sense what you were doing but not quantify it or provide a theory of how it worked. I was reading lots of Heidegger at the time, and the two things seemed to complement one another. But once we had achieved a level of success with this method (both technically and musically), we grew tired of it. Our current approach is different again. It employs a kind of non real time list based process to pattern generation. And we deliberately have very little real time control of this… There’s quite a “distance” between us and our tools… intentionally.
Chain D.L.K.: You started snd at a time when electronic sound was still close to an avantgarde aesthetic, materialized in projects like Mille Plateaux…
Snd: MF: Perhaps
Chain D.L.K.: …How do you see the current scene? Is technological massification killing creativity?
Snd: MF: That’s a bit like saying if more people speak a language then the more mundane the words become. I think the opposite is true. Once you give the tools to people, the activity starts to evolve and take on a life of its own. For me, it’s the people who were properly trained in how to use musical tools that killed creativity, Not the people who just pick it up and have a go. I never studied music or computing, so to extend your argument, am I one of the people killing creativity? No… But something is being changed… Namely the supposed superiority of proper music over any kind of music.
Chain D.L.K.: Let’s return to the beginning of the project. When did you start it?
Snd: MF: Well, we started snd in August 1998 and, at the time, we released a 12″ on our own label, from which Mille Plateaux (MP) took a licensed track for the “Modulations & Transformations” compilation. And then, we released another 12″ and that was when MP invited us to make an album for them. It’s a very simple story…
Chain D.L.K.: Before that, were you involved in any other project?
Snd: MF: Yeah, we both have been involved in some stuff, but nothing special…
Mat Steel (MS): Well, both us have done lots of things, with lots of other 12″, on smaller labels. But, at the time, we worked with more commercial types of music.
Chain D.L.K.: Was snd, then, a more mature thing, or just another experience?
Snd: MF: It was a way of exploring things. Whether it was more mature or not, I really don’t know…
Chain D.L.K.: I’ve mentioned maturity because you talked about previous projects…
Snd: MF: Well, we’ve probably have gone further with snd, than with the other projects.
Chain D.L.K.: So, it was just an evolution of your own sound?
Snd: MS: Yeah! But it wasn’t like a final point or a conclusion. It was like a break on a travel.MF: It was always the same channel.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you think that, ten years ago, it was important for this kind of experimental projects to exist in England in order to present other sorts of electronica than just club culture?
Snd: MF: Well, it was important for us, or else we wouldn’t be doing it. I don’t know if it had that importance to anybody else… [laughs]MS: We didn’t see it as being better than commercial or club music, because we really liked club music. It was like taking those themes and extracting it, making something different. The beats we heard and liked in club music were the ones we wanted to keep, taking everything else out.
Visit Snd on the web at:
[interviewed by Nuno Loureiro] [proofreading by Marco Pustianaz]